I recently finished reading “The Art of Neighboring” by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. The book hit home with me on two fronts. I could relate to the book’s theme of building genuine relationships right outside my front door. I also notice how much being a good neighbor ties into Willmar Electric’s purpose statement of being a person making a difference for people.
Starting as a young child, neighbors have been a vital part of my day-to-day life.
I started out living next door to Amelia Chapin, my great-grandma, on Gordon Avenue in Willmar, Minnesota. I remember little about her because we moved when I was less than two years old.
We moved across town to a new house on 8th street. Our next-door neighbor was Mr. Danielson. I always thought of him as too uptight about his yard. Every blade of grass was perfect. His entire yard expertly edged, trimmed, and mowed. Other neighbors included Ron Clancy, Kyle Hanson, and my cousins, the Norstens. I spent nearly every hour of every day outside playing with them. My friends and I turned our yard into something that drove Mr. Danielson nuts. A yard full of spots worn out from our numerous games.
In Second Grade, I moved to an acreage north of Willmar, MN, in Horizon Hills. The Bodines were our neighbors. We lived next door to them for roughly 6 years before both families moved. My friend and schoolmate, Tom Bodine, became a doctor and is now my granddaughter, Amelia’s doctor.
The entire neighborhood was friendly; we played hockey, basketball, and football after school almost every day, depending on the season of the year. Two different sets of kids from the neighborhood ended up getting married.
When I was in high school, our family moved back into town and into a new neighborhood, Walnut Place. Again, we became close to our neighbors. I lived there through high school and college, later Sue and I bought my parent’s house and raised our children there during their preseason years.
When our children were in early elementary school, we moved to Nebraska. Our new neighborhood was Vintage Heights. I often hear people talk about how much different it is to grow up in America today than when my generation was growing up. But that hasn’t been our experience. Our children had the same experience I had growing up. They spent their time outside running and playing with neighbors in Vintage Heights, just like I had on 8th street and Horizon Hills.
Sue and I made close friends with everybody on the cul-de-sac in Vintage Heights. But when our children moved out, we moved to our current neighborhood.
Over the weekend, one by one, we connected with each of our neighbors for at least 30 minutes. None of the meetings were scheduled. All but one happened by chance. When we saw one of our neighbors, we stopped and talked. (The one visit that didn’t happen by chance was when we brought some of Sue’s homemade cookies to the neighbors who moved in only a few days ago).
This blog is meant as more than a rundown on my life or a short autobiography of my upbringing.
This blog is meant to show that if you stop and take the time to get to know your neighbors, you will make a difference in your life and in their life that will last forever.
When one of my neighbors is out of town and needs something, they call and ask for help.
The most notable instance of that was when a neighbor asked me to break into their house, find a passport they had hidden away, and FedEx it to them while they were away at Christmas time. For a moment, it made me feel like James Bond, but more importantly, it allowed him to fly to India to see his dying mother.
If I had not taken the time to get to know my neighbor, he would never have reached out to me.
At work, we call it People Making a Difference for People. It is about caring enough to truly get to know people well enough to seek you in times of need. If you follow Willmar Electric on social media, you will see signs of this type of behavior weekly.
I’m honored to work with people and live amongst people who understand the “Art of Neighboring.”
(P.S. As I age and spend more and more time in my yard, I wonder if I have turned into Mr. Danielson).